Scutellaria baicalensis is used in traditional medicine to treat many medical conditions. Studies on its potential anticancer effects are underway.
S. baicalensis, also known as Huang Qin or Chinese skullcap, is a root extract used in traditional medicine, often in combination with other herbs. Most studies have been conducted in the lab rather than in humans. Some cancer cell lines undergo cell death when exposed to extracts from this herb. However, there are some compounds in this herb that may have opposite effects. Additional studies are needed to confirm the circumstances under which this herb may be beneficial.
S. baicalensis extracts also reduce inflammation, act as antioxidants, and kill gram-positive bacteria in the laboratory setting. In animals, the extracts help lower blood cholesterol levels under certain conditions. However, it is not yet clear if any of these effects occur in the human body.
To treat atherosclerosis
Studies in animals show that extracts of this herb may help lower blood cholesterol levels under certain conditions, but human studies have not been conducted.
To treat cancer
Extracts from this herb cause cell death in isolated liver cancer and leukemia cell lines in the laboratory setting, but human data are lacking. S. baicalensis has not been studied in clinical trials as a single agent, but has been studied in combination with other herbs in formulations such as PC-SPES and sho-saiko-to.
To treat hepatitis
The herbal formulation sho-saiko-to, which contains Huang Qin, has been studied for its possible liver-protectant effects.
To treat arthritis
An herbal supplement containing S. baicalensis has been shown to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. It is not known if the herb would exert similar effects by itself.
Do Not Take If
You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners: Chinese skullcap can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.
You are taking statins: Chinese skullcap can decrease the blood level of drugs used to lower cholesterol.
You are taking Cytochrome P450 substrate drugs: Chinese skullcap may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
Lung inflammation due to bacterial or viral infection
Case Report Acute liver injury: In patients following consumption of a formula containing baicalin derived from S. baicalensis for osteoarthritis.
Scutellaria baicalensis is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of conditions including epilepsy, hepatitis, infections, and cancer. It often is used in combination with other botanicals such as PC-SPES and sho-saiko-to.
In vitro and animal data suggest that compounds in S. baicalensis cause apoptosis in various cancer cells (2)(3)(14) or protect against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity (15). However, both S. baicalensis root and its main flavonoid baicalin appear to have dose-dependent pro- and anti-angiogenic effects (9). Some constituents may also have neuroprotective (4)(5), anticonvulsant (6), and anti-inflammatory (17) effects.
An herbal supplement containing S. baicalensis reduced symptoms of osteoarthritis (22). It is not known if the herb would exert similar effects by itself.
Mechanism of Action
The flavonoid baicalin exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and gram-positive antibacterial activity in vitro (3). Its ability to attenuate asthma is attributed to reduced airway injury and restored mitochondrial function (19). The neuroprotective effects of flavonoids were ameliorated by diazepam, a GABA receptor agonist, suggesting that the components influence GABA receptor activity (5).
In vitro studies suggest that certain flavonoid components of S. baicalensis have anticancer activity. Induction of apoptosis in hepatoma G2, 3B, and SK-Hep1 cell lines occurs following 48 hours of exposure to baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin at concentrations of 25-100 mcg/ml. Wogonin causes arrest at G1 phase while baicalin and baicalein cause G2/M accumulation (2). Additional studies show that baicalin, at concentrations of 50-200 mcg/ml, activates caspase-3, resulting in apoptosis of Jurkat cells (leukemia-derived T cells). However, low-dose baicalin upregulated expression of multiple angiogenic genes to increase cell proliferation in developing blood vessels, while high-dose baicalin inihbited angiognesis by inducing cell death, suggesting dose-dependent dual effects; the compound baicalein exhibited only inhibitory effects (9).
Case Report Acute liver injury: In patients following consumption of a formula for osteoarthritis that contained baicalin derived from S. baicalensis(18).
Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: May cause additive effects (12).
Statins: Baicalin, an active constituent, can decrease the blood level of statin drugs used to lower cholesterol (13).
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Wogonin inhibits CYP1A2 and CYP2C19, and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (16).
Solute carrier (SLC) transporters: Baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin inhibit uptake of specific substrates mediated by essential SLC transporters, which are important membrane proteins responsible for the cellular influx of various drugs (21).